When Life Hands You Lemons …


… make limoncello!

Hello and welcome to Week 23. This is going to be a pretty short post, because making homemade limoncello is REALLY easy.

Channel Your Inner Steve Earle
I used the recipe from a book that I’ve raved about in earlier posts: Karen Solomon’s “Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It”. Here’s the basics:

  • Get some lemons, some vodka and a two-quart mason jar.
  • Put on “Copperhead Road” by Steve Earle. (My idea. Don’t blame Karen.)
  • Put some vodka in the jar.
  • Take the peels off the lemons and throw them into the jar.
  • Leave it alone for awhile.
  • Take the peels out and put in some simple syrup and fresh-squeezed lemon juice.
  • Leave it alone for awhile more.
  • Strain the limoncello and start making fabulous cocktails like the one below.

Yes, It’s THAT Simple
In only slightly more time than it takes to sing “seeds from Colombia, Mexico-oh!”, you can be the proud maker of a hip summer liqueur. (And when you’re tired of the hillbilly moonshine vibe, take it out of the mason jar and put it into a nice retro swing-top bottle.)

The Start of Many, Many Cocktails

The perfect end to a sultry summer afternoon

The perfect end to a
sultry summer afternoon

If you spend a few moments with Google, you’ll find literally dozens of recipes for cocktails that involve limoncello. I thought the Limoncello Gin Cocktail from theKitchn (now my new favourite cooking blog) sounded perfect. Plus, in the true spirit of life hacking, it was ridiculously easy to make.

My fellow taste tester and I both loved the thirst-quenching action of this cocktail, but we felt that the gin was a little overpowering. This might have been the brand we used (Bombay Sapphire). I tried a variation with Tanqueray, which helped, but I would still recommend adding an extra half-ounce of limoncello to sweeten things up.

I’d like to do a larger-scale taste test between my limoncello and the store-bought version, but that would probably involve bringing it to work with me. Sadly, workplace alcohol consumption is not considered a good idea in the professional library world.

Dollars and Cents
Now, the money angle. This recipe took half of a 750 ml bottle of Absolut, which I got on sale for $20.99. The lemons cost a total of $6.32, and I had the sugar for simple syrup already in the house.

I ended up with a little less than 750 ml of finished product for $16.82. The same size of store-bought limoncello costs $25.99. That’s a savings of $9.17 for a nice little cha-ching! (Since we’ve included the cost of “Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It” in a previous post, we won’t add it in again.)

Of course, you can’t put a price on how hip and European you’ll feel, dishing ice-cold limoncello shots to your friends on a scorching summer day.

“Ah yes!” they’ll exclaim. “[Your name here] is always so hip and European.”

You, of course, will just smile and pass the bottle over for seconds.

And We Are Done
That’s it! Tune in next time, when we celebrate the final long weekend of the summer (and the tiny island of Bermuda) with homemade ginger beer. Remember, if you’ve got questions or comments, feel free to leave them below or drop me a line at librarylifehack [at] gmail.com. Until we meet again, I hope you have a great week — and maybe even a summery cocktail!


Can’t Read My Poker Face: DIY Face Cream

Raw ingredients and the finished product

Raw ingredients
and the finished product

Hey there! It’s Week 22 here at Library Life Hack. This is the final installment in our three-part series on homemade cosmetics, but I have to tell you that I’ve been inspired enough to order the ingredients to try out homemade sunscreen and lipstick too. If they work out, I’ll post the news in the Check-Back section.

Going for Broke
This week we’re going all-out and making face cream. Once again, our resource is Stephanie Tourles’ excellent book “Organic Body Care Recipes”. The recipe we used is Rich and Royal Regeneration Flower Cream and it’s found on page 198. There are plenty of ingredient options, but my version contained these:

  • almond oil
  • rose hip seed oil
  • beeswax
  • rose hydrosol
  • lavender essential oil
  • rose geranium essential oil*
  • ylang ylang essential oil

*On the advice of Sedona Aromatherapie’s blog, I substituted rose geranium oil for the very expensive neroli oil the recipe calls for.

This recipe was the only face cream that didn’t require a blender, but there is a fair bit of stirring involved, so that the ingredients bind as they cool. It took about 30 minutes to make up, and then it set for a few hours.

Transported Directly to France
Words fail to describe how fantastic this stuff smells. The rose is very pronounced, but the other florals make a great patchwork of scents in the background. I think this is what it would be like to run through a summer field in southern France. With flowers exploding in bloom all around you. And perhaps a nice man chasing behind you, lugging a picnic basket loaded with croissants, goat cheese and wine. But I digress.

Smells Great, But Does It Work?
Like the body oil we made last time, a little goes a long way. I liked the texture and it left my skin quite soft. My only (minor) complaint was that it never seemed to quite sink into the skin around my eyes. I wear water-soluble mascara, and I found that this made it melt a little. (It only got really bad when I spent some time in Toronto. The combination of high humidity and face cream meant that I came home from an afternoon outing looking like an old-enough-to-know-better version of Avril Lavigne. Oops.)

I also gave some to my co-workers to try out. Here’s one of the reviews:

I found the texture of this face cream to be really enjoyable. It was light and fluffy instead of dense and oily. The smell was relaxing, though I would not recommend it to anyone with a sensitivity to scents as it can be overwhelming. Maybe not something to wear at work, but to use as a nighttime moisturizer. It absorbed nicely and did not leave a really greasy texture behind. I have had quite a bit of trouble with medication-induced dry skin, and this helped while not causing further skin reactions.
Overall, a very nice product, though you were right, a little goes a long way!
Is this a long enough review?

Shout Out to a Local Business
I must give a shout-out to the Sherwood Park Optimum Health store, who had rose hip seed oil in stock when Saffire Blue ran out. Their staff was really helpful, and really nice. Also, they offer fascinating workshops on homemade body care, tea crafting, soap making and more. Check out the current schedule here.

Show Me the Money
The recipe makes enough to fill two half-ounce jars. Including the reusable containers (which were 81 cents apiece), each jar of this face cream costs $3.59 and lasted for two months. Oil of Olay Classic, which is what I had been using, is $8.47 and lasts about three months. That works out to $3.32 a month vs. $1.80 a month, and in the second month, that would go down further to 99 cents if you reused the containers. In a year, you would save $18.76. Cha-ching!

And That’s a Wrap
All in all, I am super pleased with Stephanie Tourles’ book. Having had only marginal success with cosmetic recipes before, for three of them turn out this well is wonderful. I’m excited to get back into the kitchen and try out the sunscreen and lipstick. Make sure you tune in next week when we beat the heat with a batch of homemade limoncello. And until then, have a great seven days!


Stock Market Check-Back for July

Hello! Here’s the update on the imaginary stock portfolio we put together back on Jan 1. You’ll also be able to find this in the Check-Back section.

And the round-up for July: only three stocks in negative territory (good), but two of those in double digits (not so good). One the up side, Magna International continues to lead the pack, with a 58% gain since January. The second place finisher is Bombardier Inc., which is up 32% and the bronze medal goes to Sparton Corp., which is up 28%. Overall, nine of our fifteen stocks are showing double-digit gains over the last seven months, which is great.

AEterna Zentaris has taken a pounding, it’s true. However, last week they announced that they’ve recruited and dosed the first patient for the Phase 3 clinical trial of a drug that treats endometrial cancer. I’ve come to realize that pharmaceuticals are a tricky stock market bet. When a drug starts clinical trials, there seems to be a lot of speculation that drives up prices — even though nothing’s really been proven at that point.

Company Name Closing Price
Dec 31
Closing Price
Jul 31
% Change
AEterna Zentaris Inc. 2.38 CDN 1.44 CDN -40%
Bombardier Inc. 3.76 CDN 4.96 CDN +32%
Callaway Golf Co. 6.50 US 7.18 US +10%
Cameron International Corp. 56.46 US 59.50 US +5%
Canadian Tire Corp. 81.00 CDN 98.25 CDN +21%
Cott Corp. 8.03 US 8.37 US +4%
Indigo Books & Music 10.68 CDN 10.98 CDN +3%
Koninlijke Philips Electronics 26.54 US 31.79 US +20%
Magna International Inc. 49.68 CDN 78.55 CDN +58%
BlackBerry Ltd. 11.80 CDN 9.02 CDN -24%
Ryder Systems Inc. 49.93 US 58.07 US +16%
Sherwin-Williams Co. 153.82 US 174.17 US +13%
Sparton Corp. 13.87 US 17.77 US +28%
USG Corp. 28.07 US 25.13 US -11%
Westjet Airlines Ltd. 19.81 CDN 21.96 CDN +11%
Total Value $CDN $179.11 $225.16 +26%
Total Value $US $343.22 $381.98 +11%